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SOUTH END —Weymouth resident Michael Baumann never received any formal religious education. Baptised as a baby, he went through life without paying much attention to the Church.
Until he met — and married — Jennifer.
"After we got married, I started wanting to get involved in the Church," Baumann explained, standing at the back of the Cathedral of the Holy Cross.
With the spiritual guidance of Father Charles Hughes, his wife’s uncle, and Father Stephen Boyle, Baumann entered the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) program at the Weymouth cluster. The RCIA program is a formal program where adults receive catechetical instruction to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church.
On Feb. 29, Baumann, together with nearly 600 other aspirants, their godparents, sponsors, catechists and families, filled the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in order to participate in the Rite of Election, presided by Archbishop Seán P. O’Malley.
The Rite of Election marks one of the final steps for the catechumens — those who have never been baptized — and for the candidates — those who have been baptized into another Christian religion but wish to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church. Catechumens will receive the Sacrament of Baptism and, along with the candidates, the Eucharist and confirmation at this year’s Easter Vigil.
"So often we want to come to God on our own terms. But we can't do that," Archbishop O'Malley said during his homily. "We have to come to God on His terms."
"Lent is about that coming to God on His own terms," he continued, "and we celebrate on the first Sunday of Lent that glorious ritual of bringing together our catechumens and candidates for full reception into the Church for the Rite of Election."
"At the end of Lent, we all arrive with Jesus to Jerusalem -- to relive his Passion, death and resurrection," the archbishop said. "Our new Catholics in the RCIA program are living, very special, this spiritual journey."
The archbishop recalled that, while he was bishop of St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands, the people there referred to two types of Catholics: “soft-shoe” Catholics, those who have been “carried into the Church as babies,” and “hard-shoe” Catholics, “people like yourselves who felt the call to follow Jesus in the Catholic Church as adults.”
"In the history of the Church, hard-shoe Catholics have made a great contribution to the life of the community," he said, noting that the first American saint -- St. Elizabeth Ann Seton -- was herself a "hard-shoe" Catholic.
"We welcome you. We welcome you at a difficult time in the life of the Church," Archbishop O'Malley said.
The archbishop praised “all those who have helped these brothers and sisters to find their way into this path leading to baptism and communion with the Church,” in particular the parish priests, RCIA directors, sponsors and godparents.
"We are some saints and some sinners, but most of us are just people like yourselves, trying to follow Jesus Christ the best way we can," Archbishop O'Malley declared.
"Welcome to our cathedral. Welcome to the Catholic Church," he concluded.
Following the homily, the catechumens, together with their godparents, were asked to come forward as their names were called. After a special prayer of thanksgiving, they signed their names individually in the Book of the Elect.
Seated in front of the altar, Archbishop O’Malley announced, “I now declare you to be members of the elect, to be initiated into the sacred mysteries at the next Easter Vigil.”
The archbishop then blessed the candidates for reception into the full communion of the Catholic Church.
"Dear candidates," he prayed, "the Church recognizes your desire to be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit and to have a place at Christ's Eucharistic table. Join with us this Lent in a spirit of repentance. Hear the Lord's call to conversion and be faithful to your baptismal covenant."
Before the final blessing, Archbishop O’Malley acknowledged those adult Catholics preparing for confirmation.
"We pledge to you our prayers," he said.
"This was very beautiful," commented Alma Batac, a candidate from St. Ann Parish in Quincy. She and her fiance, Vonnery Marcial, a catechumen also from St. Ann, felt "very proud to be a part of" the Rite of Election.
Seven-year-old Chloe Lee, a catechumen from St. Monica parish in Methuen, also beamed with delight at the rear of the cathedral. When asked if she looks forward to her baptism this Easter, she grinned shyly, nodded, then hid behind her mother, Yolanda Rodriguez Domitila. “We’re both looking forward to this I think,” her mother smiled.